The key to making safety a priority is having a top-down approach. When field crews see that all company representatives — from CEO to supervisors — are adopting a culture of safety, they will feel more accountable to perform safely.
Jeff Larson, Director of Health and Safety at Electric Conduit Construction, joined The Safety Management Show to share how to get buy-in for a safety culture from all levels of an organization and why it’s so important.
We covered topics like:
- Safety needs buy-in at every level
- What committing to safety looks like
- The importance of holding people accountable
Let’s dive into the conversation!
Safety commitment comes from the top
“It’s good to have a commitment to safety from every level, and I think it’s important that each level of management is preaching it, living it, breathing it, and leading by example.”– JEFF LARSON
Ever heard this line: Safety? That’s the safety department’s responsibility.
In some (maybe many) companies, that’s the perception people have about safety. But it’s the wrong perception.
Safety requires buy-in from the top level all the way through the company, or the culture will fail.
If the first line supervisor for those employees isn’t as engaged as every other level of management, the employees won’t feel the accountability. They’re not going to perform as safely as they could had they been held accountable for the duration of their career at the company.
“Ownership has to buy in,” Jeff said. “They have to live it.”
Each level of management must start preaching safety — living it, breathing it, and leading by example.
They also have to be ready to spend money on it because safety is expensive. Consequently, smaller companies under financial constraints may have a harder time developing a culture of safety.
“Getting people to see the value in safety is really important and definitely a hurdle for some people.”– JEFF LARSON
Hope is not a strategy, but commitment is
Safety is not a program, a toolbox, or a series of talks. It’s a culture, a way of life at your company. That’s why safety has to extend farther than simply making a presentation, crossing your fingers, and hoping nothing goes wrong.
Safety starts with commitment.
A commitment to safety really means a commitment to your employees. Your culture of safety exists to benefit them, their families, and their friends, not just now but also into the future. You’re helping people be alive and healthy when they’re old.
But investing in safety isn’t just an emotional commitment. It also requires cash on the table. That can be tough for smaller companies to fork over.
It’s a lot easier for a large company with plenty of revenue to implement a culture of safety than it is for an up-and-coming company that’s just trying to get started.
For many leaders, the temptation here is to not worry about safety. We hear it all the time: “OSHA has never come out to my job site.”
Actually, OSHA just hasn’t shown up at your job site yet. The new administration has hired 1,000 new OSHA inspectors, and they’re coming for you.
“Checkbox safety culture is no good.”– JEFF LARSON
Holding people accountable for safety
Safety requires accountability. As safety professionals, a big part of our job is employee accountability.
People have to follow the program and the protocols. Safety pros need to identify shortfalls and the things employees and managers aren’t doing correctly. Holding people accountable is not easy to do.
“I think active caring goes a long way with that,” Jeff said. “Just make sure that you’re building a culture.”
When safety is meaningful to people, they’ll perform more safely. They’ll do better. Your overall safety performance will improve if people care about what you’re doing — and if they understand why you’re doing it.
“If you just ask somebody, ‘Hey, put your cones around your truck,’ that means nothing, right?” Jeff said. “But if you tell them that somebody backed over a small child, you make it meaningful.”
Safety isn’t about throwing rules at people. You have to explain why these rules are in place and why we do things this way. A child’s life and health are the reason we make those 360 walk-arounds, checking all sides of the vehicle.
Knowing your why has a much greater impact on people than just being told what to do.
Ask your employees: Why are you working safely? Why are you going to perform your safety duties every day?
Usually people say things like, “I want to go home to my family.”
Don’t we all?
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